NEWS ARCHIVE 2002 (July-December
National Stigma Clearinghouse
Please scroll down for earliest entries
December 29, 2002 - News of the Week
A REVISED LOOK AT MEDICATION FOR
The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression
(NARSAD) ranks Nancy C. Andreason, M.D., Ph.D. as one of the world's
leading researchers on brain science.
In NARSAD's recent Newsletter (Fall, 2002), Dr. Andreason makes a
startling comment about schizophrenia medication. "We are gradually,
steadily building a scientific basis for knowing what doses of drugs to
use for our patients to get it exactly right -- not too much and not
too little. And that's big progress," she said.
BIG PROGRESS? A stunning lack of progress is more accurate.
Why did it take thirty years to realize the critical importance of
What are the odds of finding a doctor who knows when the dose is
"exactly right" ?
Who if anyone is re-training mental health practitioners, most of whom
have been told that neuroleptic medications are harmless, effective,
The commentary below on medicating schizophrenia is from Marc Ross
Miller, Resource Specialist/Advocate, Long Island Center for
Independent Living. Unfortunately, it may take years for these critical
views to penetrate the mental health field.
Received by E-mail from Marc Ross Miller (email@example.com),
February 15, 2002
The news that a great
proportion of people labeled schizophrenic actually live full, rich,
lives isn't news at all. That is, it isn't news to those who have
Richard Warner has written, in my opinion, an excellent book
entitled, Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and Political
Economy (2nd ed). [For whatever it's worth, Warner is
Associate Professor, University of Colorado, and medical director of
the Mental Health Center of Boulder County, Colorado].
I'll summarize Chapter 12, "Antipsychotic drugs: use, abuse and
The revolving-door patient has been created by the
use of drug treatment coupled with a neglect of the psychosocial needs
of the person labeled with a psychotic illness.
Antipsychotic drugs may be unnecessary or harmful
in the treatment of a proportion of people labeled schizophrenic; such
patients include drug non-responders and good-prognosis cases.
Long-term treatment with antipsychotic drugs
creates dopamine receptor supersensitivity, potentially worsening an
underlying "biochemical deficit" of schizophrenia.
Withdrawal of antipsychotic drugs may cause a
rebound of schizophrenic symptoms to a higher level than would have
been the case without treatment.
Drug-withdrawl studies, consequently, may give an
overoptimistic impression of the benefits of the neuroleptic drugs in
The majority of non-withdrawl studies indicate that
people with "good-prognosis" schizophrenia do as well or better without
antipsychotic drug treatment,
Stress precipitates "psychotic relapse" in
people labeled schizophrenic and drug treatment is less necessary
for patients in low-stress settings.
User-friendly medication strategies promote the use
of low doses of antipsychotic medications in persons labeled
The best prognostic measures give a rather crude
indication of which patients will recover without drug treatment.
Some, and only some, people with "good-prognosis
schizophrenia" in fact suffer from bipolar disorder.
The principles of drug-free treatment are the same
as those of any good low-dosage approach to the treatment of persons
Marc Ross Miller
Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and
Political Economy, by Richard Warner
21, 2002 - News of the Week
ACTIVIST RECOMMENDS "Media Tip Sheets"
The following "ImPRESSive Resource" (click below) came to us from Laura
Van Tosh (Montgomery County MD Coalition for Human Rights in Mental
Health) with the comment, "THESE MATERIALS ARE WONDERFUL. HAPPY
"The Story Bank: Using Personal Stories as an
Effective Way to Get Your Message Out" discusses how to build
relationships with reporters using personal stories based on real-world
experience. The piece addresses such topics as how to pick the right
story and preparing for an interview.
Go to the source: Families USA
More ImPRESSive resources at:
Happy Holidays from Us, Too!
December 15, 2002
- News of the Week
RESEARCH ON VIOLENCE REFUTES LONG-HELD
Antistigma Activists Are Encouraged by Risk-Study Data
"Evidence continues to mount that schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms
are negatively, if at all, related to the risk of future violence among
offenders and individuals who receive psychiatric services. ... There
is as yet no convincing evidence that dynamic variables (especially
treatment) play a role in determining who is likely to engage in future
We plucked this quote from the conclusions of "The Appraisal of
Violence Risk," an overview of research literature on a very timely
topic, violence risk assessment. The article, from Current Opinion
in Psychiatry, posted 12/02/2002, is by Marnie E. Rice, Grant T.
Harris, and Vernon L. Quinsey.
The article (difficult reading for laypeople) appears on the website of
Medscape, a division of WebMD. The website is FREE, open to
non-professionals, and requires a one-minute registration process. A
clickable LINK is below.
The findings should be a wake-up call to people who propose to end
violence with forced medication.
On the Web:
required) "The Appraisal of Violence Risk."The annotated reference
and reading list is of special interest.
Study Finds Social Risk Factors For Violent Behavior
MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment: Executive Summary
Community Violence Study
December 8, 2002
- News of the Week
HONOR IS OVERDUE
FOR PEOPLE MURDERED BY NAZIS IN GERMAN INSTITUTIONS
Harold A. Maio Calls For A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE, DECEMBER 29
Between 1939 and 1945 the Nazis exterminated as many as 200,000
mentally ill or physically disabled people whom they labeled "unworthy
of life." A document from 1935 shows that plans to get rid of people
deemed worthless had begun to take shape. This covert operation
provided the technical expertise later deployed in the Final Solution.
Six psychiatric hospitals were chosen for the extermination program --
Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Bernburg, and Hadamar.
In peaceful, secluded Hadamar asylum, for example, a gas chamber
disguised as a shower room was built in the cellar.
In all, over 70,000 people in the six hospitals were exterminated. The
highest number had schizophrenia, followed by bipolar illness,
epilepsy, alcoholism, and so-called feeble-mindedness.
In the years that followed, millions more were proclaimed unworthy of
living, including Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, and others.
Whereas most victims of Nazi persecution have been recognized as
deserving restitution and memorialization, the people murdered in
institutions were essentially forgotten.
Harold A. Maio in Ft. Myers Florida has resolved to rectify this major
By E-mail, Harold has asked every state governor to
proclaim December 29, 2002 a DAY OF REMEMBRANCE. A suggested
proclamation is below:
Whereas, in December of 1939 a group of people
removed from German psychiatric institutions, under the supervision of
doctors in Nazi Germany, entered history's first gas chamber and
Whereas, in the years following these murders, gas chambers were
installed in many German institutions where hundreds of thousands
Whereas, history has largely neglected the murders of these
Whereas, gas chambers were then installed in concentration camps
throughout Europe, where millions were murdered,
We do recognize and preserve the honor of those whose lives were taken
and do declare this a Day of Remembrance for those first victims, and
do pledge our honor that this day shall memorialize the deaths of those
first victims of what became the Holocaust.
Harold A. Maio
8955 Forest Street
Ft. Myers, FL 33907
Death and Deliverance, by Michael
Mad in America, by Robert Whitaker
For the Metro New York and Tri-State Area
DECEMBER 17: BENEFIT PERFORMANCE of "BLUE/ORANGE"
British theater critics called "BLUE/ORANGE"
...an enthralling drama about the world of mental
...a discomforting comedy, streaked with excitement
...theater that follows you out into the street, a
transition and a challenge one encounters all too rarely.
"BLUE/ORANGE" won top awards and audience acclaim in London two years
ago. Now in New York with an American cast, there will be a benefit
performance of the off-Broadway production on December 17 to assist the
outstanding work of the Mental Health Project of New York's
Urban Justice Center.
Please note: Seating is limited in this off-Broadway theater.
Read two New York Times items (reprinted below) about the play
and its author.
THE MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT of the Urban Justice Center
cordially invites you to attend
on Tuesday, December 17, at 8:00 p.m,
A BENEFIT PERFORMANCE of "BLUE/ORANGE"
A play by Joe Penhall in its American debut
Starring: Glenn Fitzgerald; Harold Perrineau, Jr.; & Zeljko Ivanek
Atlantic Theater Company
336 West 20th Street
Tuesday, December 17, 2002 8:00 PM
A PANEL DISCUSSION WITH CAST MEMBERS AND MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATES WILL
FOLLOW THE PERFORMANCE
$75 contribution ($50 tax-deductible)
$100 contribution ($75 tax-deductible, priority seating)
To purchase tickets, please contact Teena Brooks (646-602-5665) firstname.lastname@example.org
or Barney Latimer (646-602-5664) email@example.com
--We thank the New York Association for Psychosocial Rehabiliation
Services (NYAPRS)for passing along this information--
Excerpt from New York Times Theater Listing, December 6
† "BLUE/ORANGE." The testosterone-fueled conflict in this
ferocious comedy by the young English writer Joe Penhall is between two
psychiatrists: Robert Smith, a senior doctor at a London hospital and
his protégé, Bruce Flaherty. The battleground is the
treatment of a young black man named Christopher, who may be
schizophrenic but is about to be released. Flaherty wants him
recommitted, a course of treatment that Smith opposes, though it
quickly becomes evident that Christopher is of less interest to them as
a patient than as a mallet with which they can beat each other. Mr.
Penhall, who is just 34, has yet to achieve the precision of, say,
David Mamet, and his play ends on an uncertain note. But he has
nonetheless created some brawny characters here, and the acting —
by Zeljko Ivanek and Glenn Fitzgerald as Smith and Flaherty,
respectively, and especially by Harold Perrineau Jr. as the jittery and
unreachable Christopher — is very strong (2:20). Atlantic Theater
Company, 336 West 20th Street, (212) 239-6200. Tuesdays through Fridays
at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets: $45,
with a limited number of $15 student rush tickets available at the box
office on the day of the performance (Bruce Weber).
Commentary in the
New York Times, November 24, 2002
'Blue/Orange': Power Games That Scar in a Psychiatric Arena
By MATT WOLF
JOE PENHALL'S award-winning London play "Blue/Orange" may put
modern-day psychiatry under the microscope and find it wanting, but
that hasn't stopped the English medical profession from taking to it,
and leaving Mr. Penhall somewhat bemused.
"It always surprised me that people got a charge out of
`Blue/Orange´ because it was about psychiatry and schizophrenia,"
said Mr. Penhall, referring to the fact that in London, where he lives,
psychoanalysts apparently flocked to see a play that won both the
Evening Standard award for best play as well as the Olivier,
London´s equivalent to the Tony Award. "I suppose they thought it
was nice to see a play about them, the way rock bands went to see the
film `This Is Spinal Tap.´ "
And yet, with "Blue/Orange" now receiving its American premiere at the
Atlantic Theater Company, where it opens tonight, Mr. Penhall, 34, is
hoping that spectators see his larger point. His interest, he said by
telephone from New York, lay in writing a play about "professional
people abusing their position, employing power games and semantics for
reasons to do with ambition."
In London, "Blue/Orange" opened at the Royal National Theater to
general raves in April 2000 â€" John Peter, in The Sunday
Times of London, called it "one of the best new plays in the National's
history" â€" before transferring to the West End for a
commercial run in 2001. Although there was some talk of reopening the
three-character play on Broadway with its original British cast, it is
instead arriving Off Broadway in a separate production directed by the
Atlantic's artistic director, Neil Pepe, and with three New York
actors. Zeljko Ivanek and Glenn Fitzgerald play the two psychiatrists
â€" one a senior consultant, the other a junior doctor, both
of them white â€" who come to ideological blows over the
treatment of a delusional 24-year-old black man at the National Health
hospital where both doctors work. That third role of Christopher, the
patient, is played by Harold Perrineau Jr., a regular on the HBO prison
drama "Oz," and it is his character who gives "Blue/Orange" its title.
One of Christopher's most firmly held delusions is the belief that
oranges are blue.
As the two doctors embark on their own career-minded parry and thrust,
Christopher threatens to become little more than a human Ping-Pong
ball, which led some commentators to think that Mr. Penhall's principal
aim was to criticize psychiatry. But, he said, "I'm not equipped to do
Instead, Mr. Penhall added: "I always think of `Blue/Orange´ as a
very political play, and a play about spin. It could have been about
dentistry or foreign policy â€" about anything that is
complicated and open to abuse by silver-tongued tricky Dickies."
Mr. Pepe, 39, said he had been drawn to a
text that could simply seem a debate play "in the tradition of Shaw."
"But I think," he continued, "one of the sort of remarkable things is
that the more you get into it, the more you realize Joe is writing to a
certain extent about survival."
How will those in the mental health industry respond to "Blue/Orange"
in New York, a city â€" indeed, a culture â€"
that is perhaps more attuned to psychiatry and related issues than
London? (In London, people tend to discuss their therapy in hushed
tones rather than announcing any insights they might have gleaned to
everyone within earshot.)
"Maybe some psychiatrists in New York will be cynical about the play,"
Mr. Penhall said. "But to me, it's really about educated middle-class
assumptions about race, and the way education and articulacy is each a
Mr. Penhall said that he had never been in therapy himself, despite
having written earlier about mental illness. In 1994, his play "Some
Voices," about the difficult re-entry into society of a schizophrenic
West Londoner, opened at the Royal Court Theater here. Mr. Penhall
adapted the play for its moving and undervalued film version, which had
its premiere at the Directors' Fortnight at the 2000 Cannes Festival
but was never acquired for distribution in the United States. The play
has been presented in New York twice.
Though sympathetic to issues of mental distress, Mr. Penhall said, he
resists being described as someone "who writes about crazy people and
schizophrenia; that kind of thing drives me mad." Two other plays of
his, he noted â€" "Pale Horse" in 1995 and "Love and
Understanding" in 1997 (seen the next year at the Long Wharf Theater in
New Haven) â€" have nothing to do with schizophrenia and
"are about power and power games."
It's scarcely surprising, then, to hear him cite for inspiration the
very American power dynamics of David Mamet; Mr. Penhall was directing
a Royal Court reading of Mr. Mamet's play "Speed-the-Plow" at the time
that he was writing "Blue/Orange." Not only that, Mr. Mamet is a
founder of the Atlantic company, perhaps a logical American home for
Mr. Penhall's play.
As for "Speed-the-Plow," Mr. Penhall said that Mr. Mamet's 1988 drama
"is a three-handed argument that runs and runs, so just doing
`Speed-the-Plow´ unlocked for me how I could do
`Blue/Orange.´ " His own play, he said, is "about people sneakily
invoking liberal left-wing arguments for right-wing ends"
â€" even if, he noted wryly, "people still see
`Blue/Orange´ as a rip-roaring play about madness."
To purchase tickets, please contact
Teena Brooks (646-602-5665) firstname.lastname@example.org
or Barney Latimer (646-602-5664) email@example.com
The Urban Justice Center writes: In exploring the relationships
among two psychiatrists and their patient, "Blue/Orange" brings to life
many of the issues that our clients face daily. Penhall's work centers
around the psychiatrists' debate over the patient's diagnosis as well
as his readiness to be discharged. It evolves into a complex argument
about the ways race and class influence psychiatric evaluation and
Critics have praised the 2000 world premiere in London:
"'Blue/Orange' is splendid as a whole.
It is theatre that follows you out into the street, a transition and a
challenge one encounters all too rarely."
--William McEvoy, Times Literary Supplement
"Not since [Tom Kempinski's] 'Duet for One'...has there been a better
or more enthralling drama about the world of mental health." --Sheridan
Morley, International Herald Tribune
"A discomforting comedy, streaked with excitement and emotion."
--Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard
The Urban Justice Center invites you to join them for this unique
evening of performance and discussion highlighting the urgency of their
work advocating for low-income New Yorkers with mental illnesses.
For further information on the work of the Mental Health Project,
please visit their Web site, www.urbanjustice.org.
November 24, 2002 -
News of the Week
A REPRIEVE TODAY, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
"Armed and Dangerous" (CBS 60 Minutes) Must Not Air Again, Ever!
At least for now, mental health advocates can celebrate the Senate's
failure to vote on S. 2826 (the "Our Lady of Peace Act"). This sweeping
amendment, attached to an obsolete gun law, would have added millions
of law-abiding citizens to a federal criminal database. Especially
regressive is the term "mental defective," a relic of both the American
eugenics movement and the Nazis' horrifying application of that concept.
But what will happen when the new Senate convenes in January? Will the
news media play a role? (The House passed the problematic bill just
days after "60 MINUTES" aired "Armed and Dangerous," an inflammatory
misrepresentation of people with mental illnesses.)
This brings us to a larger question: What can we do to head off media
misrepresentation? With the mental health community's vast numbers,
shouldn't we be more effective in achieving fair, accurate, and
"Fair, Accurate and Inclusive Representation" is a phrase we lifted
from the website of GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against
Defamation. Like most other stereotyped minorities, the gay and lesbian
community gives top priority to how they are represented in the media.
We suggest that mental health organizations and activists visit GLAAD's
outstanding website. Click Here.
At the other end of the anti-defamation spectrum is the mental health
community. Arguably, the constituency's highest-visibility spokesperson
is Dr. E. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC). For a
decade TAC has emphasized and exaggerated the dangerousness of people
with mental illnesses. This group bases its activism, it is said, on
the principle that the public will fund what it fears. So far, TAC's
"fear" results have been good; their "funding" results poor.
ACTION TO TAKE NOW
Tell "60 MINUTES" that any rebroadcast of "Armed
and Dangerous" will be considered a deliberate act of malicious harm.
This advance notice will be useful in case of future legal action. (A
letter is preferable to E-mail.)
Contact Information for CBS News
Write: Don Hewitt, Executive Producer
524 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
Send cc's to Andrew Heyward, President CBS
News; and Jeffrey Fager, Producer "60 Minutes II" (same address as
Address your message to Don Hewitt's attention.
Possible message: Armed and
Dangerous" (aired Oct. 13, 2002) contains misinformation damaging to
people with serious mental illnesses. Any future rebroadcast would be a
deliberate act of malicious harm.
Keep copies of your mail, or better still, e-mail copies to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send to
National Stigma Clearinghouse, 245 Eighth Ave #213, NYC, NY 10011.
Let your Senators hear your views on the gun bill
if you haven't already done so -- or even if you have. The message: the
bill criminalizes law-abiding people. Contact Information: Go
to GOOGLE Enter a search for
If you belong to a national mental health
organization, urge the expansion of anti-defamation work. Most
important, urge your leaders to refute made-up statistics and
over-emphasis on violence.
Bill May Still Threaten
Rush to Judgment Sensationalizes Mental Illnesses
November 17, 2002 - News of the Week (3
(Item 1) CUTTING-EDGE WEBSITE MOVES TO A NEW ADDRESS
The Stigma of Cinemania has a new URL -- http://www.cinemaniastigma.com/,
and a new Email Address: email@example.com
Mental health activist David Gonzalez created and posted this
informative, outspoken, thought-provoking website in January 2000 with
technical assistance from his son, David Jr, who has been a staunch
supporter of his dad's vision to educate the public about "Cinemania,"
a term that he defines on the site's opening page.
The site's initial funding came from a national award David received in
1999, called the "Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award," which is sponsored
by the American Association of People With Disabilities. David was the
first mental health recipient to be honored with this Award, which is
given annually to diverse advocates from the disability community and
includes a monetary grant. He has managed to maintain the on-going
website charges and expenses by working as an Employment Coordinator at
the Department of Labor for an innovative research project called New
The Stigma of Cinemania has evolved and expanded
over the past two years to include a Message Board, relevant pictures,
and various commentaries tracing the media's exploitation of mental
illnesses for sensationalism. The text is generously sprinkled with
reference links and additional sources of information. David's latest
inclusions are video clips and soundbites that illustrate his concept
of "Cinemania." These are posted on the "Movie Madness" page.
In spite of budgetary limitations, Cinemania is expanding and evolving.
Soon, for example, the Message Board (which we had trouble finding)
will receive higher visibility, and additional pages will be added to
include current events, books reviews, and varying points of view.
Anyone interested in submitting newspaper articles or headlines
symptomatic of "Cinemania" is encouraged to write to David@cinemaniastigma.com.
A VISIT TO THE SITE IS WORTH 1,000 WORDS. Click here. Please note: The
old URL will continue to work for a short time.
(Item 2) "LOST" FIREARMS EQUIP
CRIMINALS; SNIPER'S ASSAULT RIFLE WAS AMONG MANY WEAPONS "MISSING" FROM
Meanwhile, Congress May Pass a Gun Law Targeting Millions of
Are people with psychiatric disabilities the scapegoats for Congress's
failure to face the teeming business of illegal gun sales to violent
The U.S. Senate is considering reviving an archaic gun law that targets
vast numbers of law-abiding people -- everyone ever involuntarily
committed to psychiatric care regardless of the reason. The Bill sailed
through the House of Representatives by a voice vote on October 16
without a hearing, just three days after 60 MINUTES (wrongly) linked an
unknown sniper to "people with severe mental illnesses."
In defense of the Congress, guns are not a top priority these days. But
this does not excuse hurried, sloppy lawmaking that puts the names of
millions of blameless Americans in a federal criminal database. And
that is exactly what the House Bill does and what the Senate will
consider doing if and when S. 2826 reaches the floor.
CONTACT YOUR SENATOR TODAY! Also contact Senate Majority Leader Tom
Daschle. The Senate will adjourn soon.
IT'S EASY! Go to /GOOGLE, enter
"senate members", then click Google Search, and locate your senators. A
phone call to would be the most effective, but regular mail and e-mail
are good too.
Suggested message: I object to the "Our Lady of
Peace Act" S. 2826. The Bill is overly broad and contains obsolete
terms such as "mental defective." Every citizen ever committed
involuntarily to psychiatric care -- regardless of the nature of the
person's illness or reason for the commitment -- would be be listed on
a criminal database. PLEASE VOTE NO.
(Item 3) ARE LANGUAGE, STEREOTYPIC
THINKING, AND PUBLIC POLICY CLOSELY LINKED?
The "Our Lady of Peace Act" (S. 2826) amends an existing law. The
amendment, now under consideration in the U.S. Senate, would add to a
federal criminal database countless numbers of diverse individuals who
are often referred to as "the mentally ill."
That a benign-sounding common phrase may spawn and perpetuate
stereotypic thinking and bad public policy is confirmed in the
following comments from Harold A. Maio, an activist and linguaphile in
Ft. Myers, Florida. We received Harold's comments by E-mail on November
"THE" by HAROLD A. MAIO
This week, reporters in the media widely reported that the Supreme
Court had addressed executing "the mentally retarded" as
unconsitutional. Reporters went on to say that if the Court voted to
hear an appeal from James Coburn, a man with a mental illness facing
execution, it would be addressing the constitutionality of executing
"the mentally ill."
I have seen none of the legal papers, but if those phrases appear in
them I would like to address each as false and misleading. Each is
Grammar of Prejudice with historical precedents.
Nazi doctors wanted to execute "the" mentally retarded and "the"
mentally ill, and when they were not stopped progressed to "the" Jews
and many other generically labeled peoples.
It seems terribly wrong to encounter that same metaphor in America's
news. I sincerely hope "the mentally ill" is not in the vocabulary of
court members, or lawyers.
Jews are not generic. People with mental retardation are not generic.
And people with mental illnesses are not generic The suggestion that
each is ought to raise the hackles on people's necks, for it recalls
the error of a history we though we had learned.
Harold A. Maio
8955 Forest Street,
Ft. Myers, FL 33907
LINKS TO RELATED READING * RELATED READING *
Gun Among Weapons Missing from Store
(See Nov. 10 NEWS for more LINKS to related reading)
November 10, 2002 -
News of the Week
PROPOSED LAW WOULD PUT LAW-ABIDING PEOPLE ON
Judging from confused reports, the media is baffled by a proposed
federal gun law amendment that will put names of law-abiding
psychiatric patients and ex-patients on a "criminal" list. One example
is a rush by "60 MINUTES" to plug the bill by linking it (wrongly) to a
then-nameless serial sniper near Washington DC. (In eerie proof
of "60 MINUTES' " power to influence, three days after Steve Croft told
viewers the bill had been "gutted in committee," it passed the House
unanimously without discussion.)
Mental health advocates fear further erosion of the civil rights of
millions of individuals with mental illnesses, many of whom have spent
time involuntarily in psychiatric institutions for reasons totally
unrelated to guns, violence, or crime.
If the law passes the U. S. Senate, the names of millions of
law-abiding citizens will be added to a federal checklist alongside
people convicted of felonies, domestic violence, and other illegal acts.
A brief background: New York's U. S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy
and U. S. Senator Charles Schumer have proposed federal legislation to
expand the computer database of the National Instant Criminal
Background Check System, or NICS. The database is used to screen
applicants for long gun purchases. The legislators presumably
believe that a bigger database will lower the nation's toll of
homicides (now about 16,500 annually) and reduce gun-related crimes.
In the House, #HR4757 passed on October 16 by voice vote without a
hearing or discussion! Senate Bill #S2826 may reach the Senate
floor in November. The bill was triggered by the tragic shooting
deaths on March 12, 2002 of a Long Island priest and a
parishioner. The shooter, well known for previous acts of
violence, eluded the fragmented, understaffed system -- a failure
that now may affect countless lives nationwide.
Basically, the Schumer/McCarthy legislation gives states financial
support to supply information to the U. S. Justice Department on seven
categories of people who are barred from buying firearms by a 1968
federal law, plus two newly added groups.
Under the 1968 law, to qualify for gun ownership a person must state
that he or she: "(i.) is not under indictment for and has not been
convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term
exceeding 1 year: (ii.) is not a fugitive from justice: (iii.) is not
an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined
in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act): (iv.) has not been
adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental
institution: (v.) is not an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the
United States: (vi.) has not been discharged from the Armed Forces
under dishonorable conditions; and (vii.) is not a person who, having
been a citizen of the United States, has renounced such citizenship."
The amendment prohibits two new groups from purchasing guns:
Individuals who are subject to a court order restraining them from
domestic violence, and individuals who have been convicted of a
domestic violence misdemeanor.
The national criminal background checklist was set up in 1994 as part
of the Brady Bill. Since that time, data supplied by state and
local law enforcement agencies to the federal database has been
seriously incomplete. The proposed amendment's introduction
states that many thousands of criminals have obtained firearms because
25 states have automated less than 60 percent of their felony criminal
conviction records. An estimated 25-30 percent of states lack automated
records of domestic violence and misdemeanor convictions; 33 states do
not share mental health records.
The new proposed legislation provides $375 million over 3 years to
states to improve their record keeping and reporting to NICS of
information regarding individuals barred from having a gun.
The bill is called the "Our Lady of Peace Act" to commemorate the two
individuals slain at the Roman Catholic church in Lynbrook, Long Island
on March 12th. But why have the bill's authors and the press put such
emphasis on psychiatric patients when this group ranks far below others
in risk of gun violence?
Does "mental defective" include people with Alzheimer's disease,
dementia, retardation, and other neurological impairments? Will
their names be entered in the database? And what mechanism will
supply data to the NICS about users and addicts of controlled
substances (category iii.) ?
The Schumer/McCarthy bill reminds us of the earlier campaign for the
Brady Bill to stem gun fatalities. Gun control activists targeted
"madmen" and "the John Hinckleys of the world" as major threats to
public safety. Then as now, blame for the nation's gun violence
fell disproportionately on people with mental illnesses. Why
blame a group whose violent acts are a mere blip in the staggering
number of gun-related crimes in our society?
Rep. McCarthy has suffered unbearable loss from gunfire. Her
husband died and her son was seriously injured when Colin Ferguson
opened fire on a Long Island commuter train in 1993, killing 6 people
and wounding 19 others. It has been apparently forgotten,
however, that Ferguson purchased his 9 mm. semi-automatic pistol in a
state with strict gun laws (California) and the purchase was entirely
legal. After filling out a sheaf of state and federal application
forms, Ferguson waited for a mandated 15 days before picking up the
weapon. Furthermore, he had no record of involuntary psychiatric
commitment (nor voluntary inpatient or outpatient treatment) and would
not have appeared on the NICS checklist even if the new law had been in
effect. A similar story applies to John Hinckley.
Rep. McCarthy admits that trying to modernize the archaic 1968 law
would be doomed to failure. Therefore she is willing to accept a
flawed amendment. While we share the desire of our legislators to
end gun violence, even before its passage the proposed bill is
inflicting prejudice, discrimination, injustice, and anguish on
millions of innocent individuals.
ACTION IS NEEDED BEFORE THE SENATE VOTES ! As it
stands, the bill will cause broad damage.
URGENT! Contact your U. S.
Senators in both their district offices and in Washington. The Senate
will resume session in mid-November. For contact info: call
1-800-839-5276. Google Search is
an excellent resource for senate members, senate schedule, etc. etc.
Let the bill's authors know your views.
U. S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy
1224 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: 202-225-5516; Fax 202-225-5757
District Office: 1 Fulton Avenue, Suite 30
Hempstead, NY 11550
Tel: 516-489-7066; Fax 516-489-7283
U. S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: 202-224-6542; Fax 202-228-3027
District Office: 757 Third Avenue, Suite 17-02
New York, NY 10017
Tel: 212-486-430; Fax 212-486-7693
We urge respected public figures whose history
includes an involuntary psychiatric treatment experience to step
forward and point out the flaws in this overly sweeping amendment.
The following message was recommended by the New
York Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS):
"I'M A REGISTERED VOTER FROM (your locality) WHO URGES THE SENATOR TO
PUT A HOLD ON THE "OUR LADY OF PEACE ACT" (S. 2826) BECAUSE WE BELIEVE
IT UNINTENTIONALLY WOULD DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS
WITH PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES. I URGE THAT CORRECTIONS BE MADE IN THE
BILL BEFORE IT IS APPROVED BY CONGRESS."
RELATED READING * RELATED READING * RELATED READING
Threatens Privacy, Could Lead to Discrimination," Bazelon Center
Special Alert! Congress Links Guns to Mental Illness
Unheeded: County Was Unable to Monitor 'Violent' Patient Because He
Could Not Be Found"
Bill Orders States to Give Data for Gun Sales"
BILL S. 2826
Go to Google, enter "senate
legislation", click Google Search, scroll to "Thomas", enter S. 2826,
Schumer's press release, July 30, 2002: New Bill Would Close Gun Law
Holes That Led to Slaying of Priest
McCarthy's press release (undated): Our Lady of Peace Unanimously
Passes the U. S. House of Representatives
Failed Despite Kendra's Law -- Is Another New Law the Answer?
To Judgment Sensationalizes Mental Illnesses (See Antistigma Home Page,
Recent News, Oct. 13)
NOTE: If you have difficulty finding any of the above references, we
will be happy to mail the information to you. E-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org
2002 - News of the Week
GOVERNOR PATAKI SYSTEMATICALLY
SHORTCHANGED THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM, REPORT REVEALS
Governor George E. Pataki's apparent efforts to dismantle New York's
mental health system are disclosed in a scathing report issued by
Martin A. Luster, Chairman of the Assembly Mental Health Committee. For
a copy of the full report, Broken Promises, Broken Lives: A
Report of the State of the Mental Health Delivery System in New York,
call Mr. Luster's office at 518-455-5444. The Executive Summary is
posted on Capitol Wire: Click
here to subscribe.
Among the report's charges: The Governor ignored the state's discharge
planning laws; he bypassed statutes requiring planning for services; he
derailed hundreds of $$$millions earmarked for mental health
improvements; he emasculated requirements to report abuse of adults
with mental illnesses living in adult homes and nursing homes.
"The Governor should take credit for his administration's
accomplishments; he must also take responsibility for its failures,"
Luster said. "The mental health system is broken. The failure of
the Governor to exercise his constitutional duty...has created a public
health crisis and is a violation of the public trust [emphasis
"The only time this Governor has responded to issues related to
conditions at adult homes has been as the result of media exposure,"
Chairman Luster said at a Committee public hearing in May.
The mental health community is vast in size and blessed with dedicated,
talented leaders. But the constituency has little to attract an
ambitious politician (*note below), and it speaks softly despite its
To expose the Governor's callous disregard for laws and public duty,
the state's 250,000 people with serious mental illnesses (and millions
more friends and families) clearly need help from investigative
reporters and other key media figures with integrity. Only then will we
possibly win more responsible action from the Governor.
*Note: Except for rare acts of violence
October 13, 2002 - News of the Week
CBS "RUSH TO JUDGMENT"
SENSATIONALIZES MENTAL ILLNESSES ONCE AGAIN!
Links unknown "sniper on a killing spree" to "severe
Using bogus homicide numbers and a bumbling choice of archive
materials, "Armed and Dangerous," (a 60 Minutes segment,
October 13) tried to link a proposed federal gun law amendment, a
series of sniper murders, and mental illnesses. Not enough time was
spent on opposing facts and views, and people with mental illnesses
were made to seem like one of society's most dangerous populations.
This is just the latest example of "Walking Time Bomb" stories on 48
Hours, 60 Minutes, and 60 Minutes II. The earliest
example in our CBS News file is a report in 1987 by Bernard Goldberg.
Mr. Goldberg mentioned some form of "killing" 20 times in the 4-minute
"news" piece, which concerned five violent incidents committed by
"deranged" people over an unspecified number of years.
Last night, "Armed and Dangerous" tried to weave together stories about
the present sniper killer in Maryland; a proposed gun law to add
involutarily-committed psychiatric patients to federal criminal
databases; and high-profile shootings by Colin Ferguson (1993), Russell
Westin (1995) , Michael McDermott (2000), and Peter Troy (2002). Only
Mr. Westin and Mr. Troy had any history of involuntary
institutionalization, meaning that the gun law amendment would not have
red-flagged the other two men for gun checks.
The important story missed is that Westin and Troy are prime examples
of dismal mental health system failure. Mr. Westin was known both to
the system and the FBI as someone who desperately needed help. Mr. Troy
was also well-known as deeply disturbed and needing intensive care. Both
cases show negligence at all levels of government to fund the required
Most outrageous were the lead-in statements by Steve Croft: "Why is it
so hard to stop deranged gunmen from terrorizing American communities,
like the sniper who has terrorized Maryland?" And, "Every year across
the United States, nearly 1,000 homicides are committed by people with
severe mental illness."
The initial statement has two flaws. First, it assumes that the
Maryland sniper is "deranged," at a time when there is absolutely no
evidence to that effect. The killer could equally as plausibly be a
sociopath, or an El Queda terrorist, or simply an angry boy of the
Columbine type. Secondly, it implies that such activity is going on
almost routinely across America, when anyone who reads the newspapers
knows it is not.
The second statement includes the infamous "1,000 homicides" statistic
that originated in the fevered imagination of Dr. Fuller Torrey, and is
unsupported by any scientific evidence.
In addition, the program failed to stress the existence of various
sub-populations in this country that are far more violence-prone than
people with mental illnesses.
One has to express dismay at such a sloppy, misshapen piece of
journalism. It certainly falls far below the standards we have come to
expect from 60 Minutes.
This segment must not be repeated. Contact 60 Minutes and
executives at CBS.
E-mail Viewer comment: email@example.com
Telephone comment: 212-975-3247
Mail: Don Hewitt, 60 Minutes, CBS News, 524 West 57th Street, New York,
David F. Poltrack, Senior V.P., Research & Planning, CBS, Inc., 51
West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019
For a transcript ($9 + $3 fee for tel.), call 1-800-777-8398
New Study Finds Social Risk
Factors For Violence
October 6, 2002 -
News of the Week
MORE UGLY SECRETS
IN NEW YORK
Psychiatric Patients Are Discharged From Institutions, Then Locked Up
In Nursing Homes For the Elderly
to New York Times Article (You may need to register, a
or See Article Reprint Below
Several months ago in a series of front-page articles, the New York
Times described scandalous conditions in "adult homes" that house
15,000 New Yorkers diagnosed with mental illnesses. Advocates had long
complained of neglect and malfeasance at the homes, but it took
exposure of the scandal by Times reporter Clifford J. Levy to get the
state's attention. Now, at least major reform seems to be under
Today's Times reports yet another scandal. Mr. Levy discovered that in
1996, without public notice, the Pataki administration authorized
owners of nursing homes (designed mainly for elderly residents) to set
aside restricted living space for people with psychiatric disabilities.
The new residents -- including many in their 30's and 40's who are
physically healthy -- are virtually imprisoned by means of locked
elevators, electronic bracelets, and doors with alarms.
Mr. Levy writes, "The units are just the latest development of the
troubled evolution of New York's mental health network over the last
century. As the state continues to empty out its costly adult
psychiatric hospitals [22 in number], it appears to be moving even
further from what it says had been a fundamental goal: helping the
mentally ill gain independence and self-sufficiency to live within a
Despite the state's enormous savings ($120,000 annually for an
institutional "bed" vs. $20,000 for a nursing home "bed" after Medicaid
shares the cost), advocates must battle continuously for funds just to
keep the state's meager supply of community mental heath programs
afloat. Most of the hefty savings from the shutdown of institutional
beds has been spent outside the mental health system.
"Mentally Ill and Locked Up in New York Nursing Homes"
by CLIFFORD J. LEVY
The New York Times, October 6, 2002
Hundreds of patients released from
state psychiatric hospitals in New York in recent years are being
locked away on isolated floors of nursing homes, where they are barred
from going outside on their own, have almost no contact with others and
have little ability to contest their confinement, according to
interviews with workers and experts and visits to the homes.
The Pataki administration approved the creation of the special units
for the mentally ill in 1996, but has otherwise left them unregulated.
The nursing homes generally lack mental health expertise, and have not
sought licenses to operate locked floors.
As a result, some experts said, the administration was allowing the
homes to violate state regulations governing the care of the mentally
ill and in the process was depriving them of their civil rights.
The conditions in the locked units, which the administration authorized
with no public notice, were uncovered in a four-month investigation by
The New York Times. The investigation was based on multiple visits to
the homes - many are in New York City - as well as more than 50
interviews with residents, relatives, workers and officials.
The units are in nursing homes that mainly care for the elderly. They
are not part of the separate system of adult homes for the mentally
ill, which were the focus of a series of articles in The Times earlier
this year that detailed extensive neglect and malfeasance.
The units are just the latest development in the troubled evolution of
New York's mental health network over the last half-century. As the
state continues to empty out its costly psychiatric hospitals, it
appears to be moving even further from what it says had been a
fundamental goal: helping the mentally ill gain independence and
self-sufficiency to live within a community.
The investigation of the nursing home units shows that the mentally ill
residents - many in their 30's and 40's and physically healthy - often
receive little in the way of rehabilitative therapy and are chiefly
left to wander the halls or languish in their rooms. The residents are
not violent and have not been involuntarily committed by a court.
Yet on the fourth floor of the New Surfside nursing home in Far
Rockaway, Queens, about 50 mentally ill people are prevented from going
outside by locked elevators and fire doors with alarms. Residents at
the nearby Haven Manor nursing home are outfitted with electronic
bracelets that trigger an alarm should they try to leave. And at the
Woodmere nursing home in Nassau County, residents have broken windows
in a desperate bid for freedom, workers said.
Gov. George E. Pataki would not comment for this article.
Administration officials and a main operator of the homes disputed that
the floors are technically locked. They said the units are merely
secured, and thus do not legally require a special license. The
officials said the units provided quality care and did not confine
residents against their will.
Visits to the homes and interviews with workers and residents like
Leonard Holloway indicated otherwise. Mr. Holloway, who is 48 and has
schizophrenia, was not allowed outside Haven Manor until late last
month, three months after arriving at the home and only after being
visited by a reporter.
``You feel like you´re in a - like you´re a prisoner in
here,´´ said Mr. Holloway, once a clerk at the main branch
of the New York Public Library.
Tacked on the wall over his bed is evidence of what he has accomplished
during his stay: three children's jigsaw puzzles that he put together
during recreation time.
Many mental health advocates and lawyers were unaware of the units and
voiced dismay when told of the restrictions.
``I have never heard of this type of facility in the 12-plus years that
I have been doing this,´´ said Tim Clune, managing attorney
for Disability Advocates, a nonprofit legal office in Albany. ``I am
very surprised that this exists, and that the state would allow this to
exist. This is de facto involuntary commitment. These people´s
civil rights are being violated.´´
Administration officials said they did not know exactly how many units
were operating. The State Office of Mental Health estimated that at
least a dozen existed, suggesting that as many as 1,000 mentally ill
people lived in them. Yet the office, which was responsible for
discharging the patients from the state psychiatric hospitals to the
units, has chosen not to take a role in overseeing them or ensuring
that residents receive proper care.
The administration's chief nursing home regulators, Dr. Antonia C.
Novello, the state health commissioner, and Wayne Osten, a senior
health official, said the units were appropriate and had been examined
by officials during routine inspections of the homes. They said the
units, which the department refers to as ``neurobiological
units,´´ did not need additional regulations.
``The residents can leave the units if they want,´´ Mr.
Osten said. ``From our standpoint, there are means of egress for the
Mr. Osten said it would be incorrect to call the units locked,
explaining that while elevators were often ``keyed,´´ as he
described them, the fire doors were only alarmed.
But workers said in interviews that residents are told that under no
circumstances are they permitted outside on their own. The workers said
the floors were confined to prevent the mentally ill residents from
mixing with elderly residents on other floors. The restrictions also
allow the homes to avoid hiring more staff to keep track of the
mentally ill residents, the workers said.
An aide to Benjamin Landa, who is a partner in four homes with units,
said state officials knew about the restrictions imposed on residents,
adding that health and mental health officials had repeatedly visited
the homes. The aide, Frank Iannucci, said the residents agreed to the
conditions before they were admitted.
``This is a voluntary program,´´ Mr. Iannucci said. ``All
the clients are told exactly what is on the unit.´´
Legal experts like Mr. Clune dismissed that
assertion, saying that psychiatric wards are sending the patients
directly to the units and the patients have little say in the
In addition, the residents have not been deemed by the state to be a
danger to themselves or others, which is typically the legal standard
used to keep someone in a locked hospital psychiatric ward. Because the
units are not licensed as psychiatric facilities, the residents also do
not have the legal protections guaranteed to patients committed to
psychiatric wards: the right to a lawyer, and to a hearing to contest
having their freedom taken away.
``I would like to go out, but they won´t let me,´´
said a New Surfside resident who is in his 40's. ``I´m trapped.
And I didn´t expect this.´´
The Council and Regulation
The units were first developed in the mid-1990's by Mr. Landa, one of
the city's most prominent nursing home operators, and his staff in
conjunction with the administration.
Mr. Landa has been a major contributor to Governor Pataki's campaigns
and was appointed by the governor to the State Public Health Council,
which is essentially an arm of the State Health Department that helps
regulate hospitals and nursing homes.
Mr. Landa is a partner in four nursing homes that have a total of 200
beds in the special units: New Surfside and Brookhaven in Far Rockaway;
Meadow Park in Flushing, Queens; and Woodmere in Nassau County.
The State Public Health Council has opted not to require regulation of
the units, which have since gone on to accept patients from the
psychiatric wards of general hospitals as well. Regulations typically
are intended to ensure that residents receive proper mental health
services and that their rights are being protected.
Despite repeated requests, the Health Department would not provide
information on Mr. Landa's activities on the council, or on whether he
was involved in council deliberations on the units.
Asked whether Mr. Landa's ties to the governor had influenced the
department's scrutiny of the units, Dr. Novello said, ``Absolutely
Mr. Landa would not be interviewed. In a statement, he said he had
never sought to prevent the units from being regulated. ``To the
contrary, such regulations would further validate the significance of
these important programs,´´ the statement said.
``Therefore, I would welcome such oversight.´´
His aide, Mr. Iannucci, said the units provided a therapeutic
environment where psychiatrists visit twice a week, and a social worker
is there daily. Many residents do so well that within a year, they are
discharged to residential facilities, he said.
He also described the elevators on the floors not as locked, but rather
as ``key-operated.´´ He added that residents who had been
deemed stable enough are eventually allowed to come and go as they
In separate interviews, seven workers on the Landa units all said
residents were never granted such privileges. ``No one can come and go
as they please,´´ said a New Surfside worker, who spoke on
condition of anonymity. ``It´s a locked unit. They are not
Pacing Near the Elevator
Multiple visits to several of the nursing home units in the city, as
well as interviews with dozens of workers, residents and their
families, revealed facilities that are generally orderly and clean, but
very much reminiscent of old-style institutions.
Isolated on the units, some residents see access to the elevators as
their only escape. That was apparent on a visit to New Surfside, when a
glimpse of an elevator key was enough to transform the quiet pacing of
one resident into a frantic dash down the hall.
``Going home? Going home?´´ the man shouted as a worker
unlocked the elevator to let a visitor out. The man tried to make it
inside, but was blocked by the worker. The doors shut, the lock was
reactivated and the resident went back to pacing.
Nearby, a young man, his stringy blond hair covered by a straw hat,
rocked back and forth silently. Other residents sat motionless in their
chairs in the television room, watching ``Access
Hollywood´´ or nodding off. A daily activities schedule
hung on the wall. Most of the time was devoted to meals, smoking breaks
or what was referred to as ``recreation.´´
The homes provide some therapy, but interviews and visits showed that
the residents are mostly idle. Workers said residents are allowed
outside only if they are accompanied by an aide, typically a few times
a week for less than a hour at a time. At some of the homes, residents
can lose the privilege of being escorted outside if they are
disruptive, workers and residents said.
``Generally, you will hear them complaining that they want to
leave,´´ said a Brookhaven worker, who spoke on condition
of anonymity. ``There is not much for them to do. They are just
basically locked down on that floor.´´
At Haven Manor, the elevators are not locked, but workers prevent
residents from leaving the floor without permission, and residents are
often required to wear electronic bracelets. Haven Manor's operator,
Daniel Cantor, did not respond to three messages seeking comment.
In interviews, some residents of the units said they did not mind being
confined, while others did not seem lucid enough to be aware of the
restrictions. But some were clearly bothered by them and said that
being in the units made their mental illness worse.
``I like my freedom,´´ said Peter Frange, a resident at
Brookhaven. ``Everybody likes their freedom. This isn´t healthy.
We don´t get enough fresh air.´´
Mr. Frange, 44, implored a reporter to help him get discharged to the
Ocean House adult home, where he once lived. The state has long rated
Ocean House one of the worst adult homes in the city, and is moving to
revoke its license.
Governor Pataki has often made the mental health budget a target for
cuts. By transferring patients to nursing homes, the administration
realizes sizable savings.
It costs Albany $120,000 annually to treat a patient in a state
psychiatric hospital. Discharge that same person to a nursing home and
the bill typically goes to Medicaid, half of which is covered by
Washington (Albany splits the rest with localities). So a mentally ill
resident of the New Surfside nursing home, for example, might cost the
state roughly $20,000 annually.
There are now 4,300 beds in the state psychiatric system, down from
9,000 when Mr. Pataki took office in 1995.
Shifting the Burden
While moving the mentally ill from hospitals to nursing homes in New
York and elsewhere is not a new idea, it had typically been handled
much more haphazardly. In the 1970's and 1980's, as
deinstitutionalization took hold across the nation, the mentally ill
population in nursing homes soared as states sought to shift the burden
of mental health costs to Washington and avoid creating new housing for
the mentally ill.
After reports of abuse and mismanagement surfaced, the federal
government responded with measures intended to restrict the flow.
Ultimately, in 1987, Congress mandated that states screen potential
residents to ensure that they were not being inappropriately placed in
Pataki aides said they were abiding by the federal rules.
Just as with the creation of the adult home system more than three
decades ago, the nursing home units came about with no planning or
involvement from outside mental health experts, according to officials.
Some advocacy groups warned that with the nursing home units, the state
was in danger of repeating the mistakes that it made with the adult
homes: placing the mentally ill in facilities that were not meant for
them, in an effort to reduce the size of the psychiatric hospitals and
One group, the Coalition of Institutionalized Aged and Disabled, which
learned of the nursing home units only late last year, said that if
residents were well enough to be discharged from psychiatric wards, it
was illegal to continue to confine them in facilities that have little
``These are the new adult homes in the making,´´ said Geoff
Lieberman, the coalition´s executive director. ``Residents who
are inappropriate for nursing homes are being admitted, sometimes under
The state mental health commissioner, James L. Stone, denied that the
creation of the units had anything to do with money. ``The goal is the
most appropriate care in a less restrictive standing in the
community,´´ Mr. Stone said. ``Are we under some pressure
to do this to cut costs? The answer to that is no.´´
Mr. Stone called the units excellent long-term housing. ``They have met
a real need for some people who have been languishing in our state
hospitals,´´ he said.
(Copyright New York Times 2002)
2002 - News of the Week
IS DR. AMADOR'S
"INSIGHT THEORY" GETTING A BAD RAP?
In Wisconsin this summer, the state's civil commitment law survived a
challenge in the State Supreme Court.
In losing the case (Wisconsin v. Dennis H), the appellants lost their
attempt to overturn the Wisconsin commitment law's "Fifth Standard."
This standard allows medication to be forced on individuals who do not
pose a danger to themselves or others. Wisconsin's four other
commitment standards require substantial probability of physical harm
either to self or others.
In upholding the Fifth Standard, the Court handed a victory to
proponents of forced medication. In an amicus curiae brief, the
Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) argued that patients' lack of insight
necessitated the Fifth Standard, which broadens the courts' power to
overrule patients' objections to medication. To give scientific weight
to their argument, the TAC cited the work of Dr. Xavier Amador, among
others. Dr. Amador is a foremost researcher on the subject of "lack of
insight" among people diagnosed with mental illnesses. His work is
frequently cited by forced medication advocates to justify harsher
involuntary commitment laws.
So often is Dr. Amador's work cited by coercion advocates, we assumed
that he too supports coercion. Not true. In fact, Amador views coercion
as counter-productive. His approach to treatment, described in his
book, I Am Not Sick; I Don't Need Help!, tells families
and caregivers how to avoid the power struggles that so often poison
relationships and derail efforts to "help." It is therefore incongruous
that Dr. Amador's name is closely associated with the Treatment
Advocacy Center and its state-by-state efforts to broaden court-ordered
The Court did not hear that Amador sees coercion as counter-productive
or at best a temporary fix for a person's "unawareness." It did not
hear Amador's view, developed over years of experience with patients
and his own brother, that a partnership approach to treatment is far
more effective and achieves more lasting results. It did not hear about
his meticulously detailed and compassionate guide for helping patients
and caregivers to work together in a non-coercive way.
To suggest that Dr. Amador is a mainstay supporter of involuntary
treatment, one must ignore all that he espouses.
BOOK: I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help, by Xavier Amador, Ph.D.
ON THE WEB:
"A Victory for Treatment" by TAC
September 22, 2002 - News of the Week
HEALTH SYSTEM OVER-RELIES ON MEDICATION
FAILS TO MEET BASIC HUMAN NEEDS, SUCH AS HOUSING
The National Council on Disability issued on Monday a report (Go
to Report) calling for public mental health systems to be "driven
by a value system that sees recovery as achievable and desirable to
every person who has experienced a mental illness." Thirty years of
"entrenched forces and stale thinking" have produced homelessness,
poverty, criminalization, and unemployment. While there is no single
antidote for the current "crisis-oriented" system, the report
recommends visionary leadership and adequate funding for high-quality
The National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal
agency making recommendations to the President and Congress on issues
affecting 54 million Americans with disabilities. NCD is composed of 15
members appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Mental Health System Lacking," SIOBHAN McDONOUGH, The Associated Press.
Enter "search" using article title.
Well Being of Our Nation: An Inter-Generational Vision of Effective
Mental Health Services and Supports," National Council on Disability
Note: If you have trouble finding the information, we will send it to
you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to include a mailing address.
2002 - News of the Week
TORREY TWISTS MEANING OF SURGEON GENERAL'S REPORT
Mistakes "Fear of Violence" To Mean "Violence"
On many occasions we have objected to Dr. E. Fuller Torrey's
fear-mongering statements about violence and mental illnesses. We have
equally criticized his tendency to misrepresent the work of others to
promote his opinions.
Yesterday's mail brought yet another example of how Dr. Torrey skews
information. In a letter, "Stigma and Violence," in Psychiatric
Services (the September issue), Torrey misrepresents a
carefully-worded section on "Public Attitudes About Mental Illness" in
the Surgeon General's report on mental health (DHHS 1999).
Specifically, Torrey distorts passages in the report concerning the
public's exaggerated fear of violence (pages 7-8).
In his letter, Dr. Torrey misconstrues "fear of violence" to
mean "violence." He then applies this distorted meaning to his
often-repeated claim that "the most important cause of stigma is
violence." Presto! The Surgeon General appears to agree that violence
is a big problem, when in truth he has stated the opposite view.
The Surgeon General's report, citing numerous studies, concluded that
the public's fear is disproportionate to the low risk of violence. In
the words of the report, "Because most people should have little reason
to fear violence from people with mental illness, even in its most
severe forms, why is fear of violence so entrenched?"
Unfazed by facts, however, Torrey writes, "It seems clear from the
Surgeon General's report, as well as from research studies, that little
progress will be made in decreasing stigma until we address the issue
The key question is "Why is fear of violence so entrenched?"
The research necessary to resolve this critical question has not yet
On The Web:
Letter from Dr.
Torrey, Psychiatric Services, Sept. 2002. (Registration is
Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General; Chapter 1, click
"Introduction and Themes," scroll to "Public Attitudes About Mental
Illness 1950's-1990's." (.html and .pdf format)
of the Surgeon General (1999) (For your interest!)
Medication and Fear Tactics (National Stigma Clearinghouse)
If you have trouble reaching the above sources, we will send you copies
of Dr. Torrey's letter and the relevant passage in the report. Call
212-255-4411, or e-mail your request to email@example.com. Don't
forget to include a mailing address.
2002 - News of the Week
In the American
Journal of Public Health, September 2002
NEW STUDY FINDS SOCIAL RISK FACTORS FOR
Needed: Housing and Treatment Programs for Substance Misuse (More info
"If we're worried about violence among people with serious mental
illnesses, we need to pay far more attention to finding safe housing in
decent neighborhoods, mitigating the effects of physical and sexual
victimization, and aggressively treating substance-abuse issues." Are
these the words of a mental health activist?
No, it's researcher Marvin Swartz commenting on the findings of a
just-published study led by Jeffrey Swanson of the Duke University
Medical Center. Swanson's research team analyzed data from 802
individuals diagnosed with "severe" mental illnesses in four eastern
seaboard states from New Hampshire to North Carolina.
A press release from Duke University states, "People with severe mental
illnesses are highly unlikely to become violent toward others unless
they have additional risk factors combined with their psychiatric
This study adds to a body of research refuting the popular belief that
people with mental illnesses are prone to violence. Swanson noted that
acts of violence are quite uncommon and that most violence that occurs
"appears to be attributable to factors outside of mental illness."
In fact, people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of
assault than perpetrators. Researchers at North Carolina State
University and Duke University reported in 1999 that people with
psychiatric disabilities are attacked at a rate 2-1/2 times higher than
the general population.
The new Duke study found three environmental risk factors that, when
combined, increase the likelihood of violence. People who have been
victims of violence during childhood, live in neighborhoods where
violence is common, and have substance abuse problems were ten times
likelier to report assaulting someone than others in the study.
Without any of these risk factors, people with severe mental illnesses
were no more likely to engage in violent behaviors than people in the
general population without a psychiatric disorder.
The study, titled "The Social-Environmental Context of Violent Behavior
in Persons Treated for Severe Mental Illnesses" by Jeffrey Swanson,
Marvin Swartz, Susan Essock, Fred Osher, H. Ryan Wagner, Lisa Goodman,
Stanley Rosenberg, and Keith Meador, was published in the September
2002 issue of the American Journal
of Public Health, Vol. 92, No. 9.
An earlier study led by Duke researchers (April 2000) examined
"involuntary outpatient commitment" as a way to stem violence. The
one-year study involved 262 individuals involuntarily hospitalized with
"severe" mental illnesses. The finding: court-ordered treatment of at
least 6 months' duration reduced incidents of violence from 42% to 26%.
Although the result was heralded by proponents of court-mandated
treatment, critics pointed out that coercion is futile in a system that
lacks resources for essential services, including housing and drug
The new social-risks study examines the roots of violent behavior. This
is important for policymakers seeking long-term solutions.
On the Web:
To request the published article, contact:
Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Duke University Medical Center Box 3071
Brightleaf Square Suite 23-A
905 West Main Street
Durham, NC 27710
Phone: (919) 682-4827 Fax: (919) 682-1907
August 25 -
News of the Week
"CRIMINALIZATION" BE STOPPED?
(See LINKS to Resources Below)
Across the nation, a staggering number of people with mental illnesses
are jailed every year simply because the help they need to survive is
not available. Their crimes are minor offenses traceable to psychosis
or other disabling psychiatric symptoms, sometimes combined with drugs
or alcohol use, and homelessness.
Will "mental health courts" using "jail diversion" methods solve the
It is clear that jails and prisons have become the dumping ground for
people abandoned by the mental health system. This expanding role of
the criminal justice system raises valid concerns. Will the result be
greater pressure for social conformity and coercion? Will histories and
records lose rights to privacy? Will funds come out of existing
In June, the "Criminal Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project"
issued a 450-page report urging that agents of change (i.e. key
leaders) and stakeholders (i.e. communities) work as partners to
"improve the criminal justice system's response to people with mental
illnesses." It is important for advocates to understand the report's
contents and voice their views.
What is "criminalization"? People with mental
illnesses are more likely to be jailed for an incident of disorderly
conduct, and their imprisonment is considerably longer, than people
without psychiatric disabilities. They acquire "criminal" records
because of their illness or disability. The injustice follows them
after release when their "criminal" record blocks their attempts to get
What is "jail diversion"? This is a general term
for any intervention that gets people help, not jail. One kind of
program is the widely-praised Crisis Intervention Team created by the
police department in Memphis, Tennessee, which credits careful police
training for its success. (Its motto is "CIT - More Than Just
Training"). With the use of specially trained officers, fast response
to crisis calls, and 7-day 24-hour coverage, arrests are dramatically
What are "mental health courts"? This is a form
of "jail diversion" now used in a number of cities. In Psychiatric
Services last year, Dr. Henry Steadman wrote that the new courts
are "an unclear conceptual model" that "operate somewhat
idiosyncratically." Dr. Steadman, a leading expert, found four general
criteria (very much shortened here): (1) single-docket booking, (2) a
courtroom team approach, (3) assurance of treatment slots, (4)
monitoring with possible court sanctions for noncompliance.
For any kind of "jail diversion" program to work, it is essential that
individuals have access to high quality mental health care, substance
abuse treatment, housing, and social services. Everyone knows, however,
that such programs are in short supply or non-existent. Advocates must
battle constantly just to keep the budget axe from destroying
successful community programs.
We confess we have not finished the Consensus Project's report. It is
well-presented (except for its small type) and is extremely readable
with a minimum of jargon. As we read further we hope to see the
1) High-quality voluntary programs must be the cornerstone of any
new-and-improved mental health system.
2) Adequate funding must be guaranteed for a comprehensive
system that serves everyone diagnosed with serious mental illnesses.
3) "Treatment" must include a safe place to live, medical care, access
to substance abuse programs, social services, an adequate source of
income, peer support services, and a recovery-oriented environment.
4) Community partnerships must assign a planning role to people who
have experienced the present mental health system.
ON THE WEB:
Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project," Full Report 450 pages (PDF
Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project", Executive Summary (PDF only)
Criminal Justice and Mental Health Consensus Project," MadNation
Courts: An Advocate's Perspective," (PDF) by Heather Barr, Urban
Justice Center (Click "Mental Health")
"When A Person
With Mental Illness Is Arrested: How To Help," (PDF) by Heather Barr,
Urban Justice Center. This booklet is designed for New York but may
apply in part to other states.
About CIT, the
Memphis Police Department's Crisis Intervention Team
GAINS Center for People with Co-Occurring Disorders in the Criminal
Center for Mental Health and the Law
Alliance for the Mentally Ill on Criminalization
Diversion: Creating Alternatives for Persons With Mental Illnesses,"
Policy Research Associates, Delmar, NY. Order online or call
"Law & Psychiatry: Mental Health Courts: Their Promise and
Unanswered Questions, by Henry J. Steadman, Ph.D., et. al. Psychiatric
Services, April 2001, 52:457-458.
(To request a copy of the article, call Policy Research Associates,
518-439-7415 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
2002 - News of the Week
FREE SELF-HELP GUIDES OFFER WAYS TO DIMINISH
SYMPTOMS AND OPEN NEW ROUTES TO RECOVERY
Seven outstanding guides for dealing with symptoms and moving to mental
health wellness are available for the asking!
These attractive 6 x 9-inch booklets are packed with suggestions based
on the first hand experiences of ex-patients/survivors and mental
health services recipients.
Topics include Speaking Out For Yourself, Dealing With The Effects
of Trauma, Developing a Lifestyle, Action Planning for Prevention and
Recovery, and more.
Much of the content comes from Mary Ellen Copeland whose writings and
talks are applauded throughout the mental health community for their
empathy and usefulness.
The guides are available from a federal government agency, the Center
for Mental Health Services (a part of SAMHSA). Order by
phone toll free (1-800-789-2647) and ask for the "Recovering Your
Mental Health Packet" of seven guides (includes publications #SMA-3504,
and #SMA-3715 thru #SMA-3720).
August 11, 2002 -
News of the Week
TEN WAYS TO FIGHT
Laws against discrimination become easier
to enforce when the general public supports them. Please feel free to
use or adapt the following "leaflet" as a tool for community
education. For a hard copy, e-mail email@example.com.
Be sure to include a mailing address.
There can be little doubt that prejudice and discrimination plague the
lives of people with mental health needs. Here are ten
suggestions for ending this injustice.
1) GO BEYOND THE STEREOTYPES. Recognize that a diagnosis
of a mental illness tells us little about the person. Such labels
do not tell us about the person's specific symptoms or
potential for recovery. They do not tell us about the
person's temperament or character. They do not tell us
about the person's accomplishments, creativity, intelligence, or
capacity for friendships.
2) LEARN MORE ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESSES. The better informed we
are the better we are able to reject the inaccurate negative
stereotypes of mental illnesses that are so common. Begin by visiting
the websites of the National Mental Health Information Center, http://www.mentalhealth.org,
and the National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov.
3) LEARN ABOUT PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION. A good place to
start is a book, Telling Is Risky Business, by Otto F. Wahl.
Visit Dr. Wahl's website for a resource list. http://mason.gmu.edu/~owahl/INDEX.HTM. The
Anti-Stigma Home Page, http://community-2.webtv.net/stigmanet
also lists links to many organizations that fight prejudice and
4) LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED MENTAL ILLNESSES. Learn
from first-hand accounts how psychiatric vulnerabilities affect
people's lives. A good source is the book, Telling Is Risky Business.
On the Web, use Google Search to
find "stories about mental illnesses.".
5) MONITOR MEDIA AND RESPOND TO STIGMATIZING MATERIAL. Work to
change the negative ways people with mental illnesses are portrayed in
films, television shows, and sensationalized news reports that reach
huge audiences on a daily basis. Write a letter or e-mail
the responsible editor, TV producer and sponsor, or
filmmaker. Call 1-800-789-2647 for a free handbook with media
directories, "Challenging Stereotypes," (SAMHSA publication #SMA
6) SPEAK UP ABOUT HARMFUL LANGUAGE. When someone you know
misuses a psychiatric term, tactfully let him or her know about the
inaccuracy and educate them about the correct meaning. When
someone disparages a person with a mental illness, tells a joke that
ridicules, or makes disrespectful comments about mental illnesses, let
them know that this is hurtful and that such comments are offensive and
7) RE-EXAMINE COMMON TERMS AND EXPRESSIONS. Most of us,
including mental health professionals, thoughtlessly use popular terms
and slang expressions that are disrespectful and
prejudicial. We should not depersonalize people by
referring to them as "the mentally ill," "the disabled," or label
individuals by a diagnosis (i.e. "a schizophrenic").
8) TALK OPENLY ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESSES. The more mental
illnesses remain hidden, the more people believe they are shameful and
need to be concealed. Help others to see beyond the stereotypes
and accept people who have mental health needs as valued friends,
neighbors and co-workers.
9) PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR ORGANIZATIONS THAT FIGHT PREJUDICE AND
DISCRIMINATION. The effectiveness of organizations advocating for
better treatment and greater acceptance of mental illnesses depends, to
some extent, on the support of the mental health community and the
10) DEMAND CHANGE FROM YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES. Policies
that perpetuate prejudice and discrimination can be changed if
enough people let their public officials know that they want such
change. Keep informed on key mental health issues and policies
and voice your concern and protest to government officials.
NOTE: This leaflet was adapted from the website of Otto
F. Wahl -- http://mason.gmu.edu/~owahl/INDEX.HTM
-- and was prepared, with Dr. Wahl's permission, by the National Stigma
Clearinghouse, August 11, 2002.
August 4, 2002
- News of the Week
WEBSITE MAY FILL EMPTY NICHE WITH PRACTICAL
IDEAS AND WEBCASTS
What's Your View?
The "Center for Reintegration" website is packed with useful
information. Its elegant no-frills layout is a pleasure to navigate.
Nearly half of the site's directors are advocates with first-hand
experience of mental illnesses.* Can this site become a meeting
ground for the mental health community?
The site addresses a range of important nuts-and-bolts topics aimed at
clearing a path to recovery from mental illnesses. This positive
"reintegration" message is for people with mental health needs,
families, and mental health professionals. Site visitors are encouraged
to make use of its message boards, and suggestions are welcomed.
In a webcast on August 1, an excellent panel tackled the
question, "How can the Law be used in a positive way to effect
reintegration back into the community?" This engrossing discussion
(hosted by law and public policy consultant Fred Levine with panelists
Heather Barr of the Urban Justice Center in New York and Katharine A.
Clemens of the New York Bar Association) answered thorny questions with
specifics. An earlier webcast on May 9 discussed "How to
interact with the mental health system" with Linda Finke, RN, PhD.
Both webcasts are available on the site archive.
Listeners need a computer media player such as the free Windows Media
Player. A text transcript is also available online.
Future webcasts will discuss Employment and the
Americans With Disabilities Act, Advanced Directives, Social Security
Administration issues and special needs trusts, and Family Law issues.
The Eli Lilly Company is funding the website with an "educational"
grant. Although a disclaimer states: "The Center for
Reintegration does not endorse any organization or recommend the use of
any specific treatment or medication listed on the web site...", the
site shows a pro-medication bias. But it goes much further. A section
called "Achieving Total Wellness in Patients with Schizophrenia" touts
olanzapine (a medication from Lilly) as better than risperidone (from
In our view, self-serving claims and sales pitches by Eli Lilly
will discredit the site.
*The other directors, mostly businessmen,
include Dr. Bruce Kinon, an olanzapine marketing executive at Eli Lilly.
What's your opinion? Please let us know...E-mail
Center for Reintegration
Center Mental Health Project
28, 2002 - News of the Week
RESEARCHERS SUGGEST NEW WAYS TO REPORT ON VIOLENCE
A Mini-Course is AVAILABLE ONLINE
"If it bleeds, it leads" is journalism's oldest cliche. If a reporter
links violence to a mental illness, the news may make headlines for
days or weeks.
What effect does the media's selective coverage of crime and violence
have on the public? What can be done about it? These are major concerns
at the Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) in California.
The BMSG notes: "Crime reporting is a time-honored tradition in
journalism. It was developed as a beat in U.S. newspapers in the
mid-1800s with the advent of the penny press, when journalists began
reporting the details of particularly lurid or noteworthy crimes. That
tradition hasn't changed much in the last 120 years."
Meanwhile, the bulk of crimes that affect communities the most and are
the most preventable go unreported, say the BMSG researchers.
Such lopsided reporting leads people to overestimate the frequency of
different classes of crime and violence, promotes fear, and leads to
support for punitive rather than preventive crime policies.
The BMSG takes a public health approach to crime reporting, giving
communities a more accurate understanding of violent crimes, the
emotional and economic costs of violence, and information about
The new BMSG website ( under construction http://www.bmsg.org
) has two excellent documents posted in PDF format. Of special interest
to mental health advocates is an Instructor's Guide for a college
mini-course intended for journalists titled Reporting on Violence:
New Ideas for Television, Print and Web. This guide can be a
valuable resource for advocates who want to learn how reporting
techniques affect public policy.
ON THE WEB:
Berkeley Media Studies
1999 News of the Week
Media Advocacy and Public Health: Power for
Prevention, by Lawrence Wallack, Lori Dorfman, David Jernigan,
Makani Themba. Sage Publications, 1993
NEWS for a CHANGE: An Advocate's Guide to Working
With the Media, by Lawrence Wallack, Katie Woodruff, Lori Dorfman,
Iris Diaz. Sage Publications, 1999
Reporting on Violence: New Ideas for TV, Print and
Web, by Jane Ellen Stevens. Berkeley Media Studies Group, 2001.
2002 - News of the Week
MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION SEEKS COMMENTS
We pass along the following message of importance to all members of the
mental health community.
E-mail Message From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Mon, Jul 22, 2002, 5:22pm
Subject: Public Comment for the President's New Freedom Commission
on Mental Health
The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health is soliciting
public comment from stakeholders in the mental health community. The
purpose of obtaining public comment is to assist the Commission in
formulating an action plan for the President that will improve
America's mental health service delivery system.
While all relevant comments are of interest and may be submitted to the
Commission at any time, several topics will be listed on this website
for public comment. All selected topics for public comment
reflect the President's charge, as outlined in Executive Order
13263. The topics listed on the website will change periodically,
focusing first on identifying problems and barriers within the system,
and later on identifying solutions.
Comments relating to the first set of topics will be most helpful to
the Commission if submitted by August 20, 2002. An additional set
of topics will be posted after that time. All comments will be
most helpful to the Commission if received by December 31, 2002.
Comments received after that date, nonetheless, will be made available
to the Commissioners.
The public may provide comments to the Commission through three
This website. Comments can be sent
electronically or printed off the next page and mailed to the
Mail written comments or information to the
Present comments in person to the Commission
during the public comment period held at every Commission meeting.
CLICK HERE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT SECTION
Home Page for President's New Freedom
Commission on Mental Health
July 14 - News of the Week
PROGRESS IS A ROCKY ROAD
1) AN OUTRAGEOUS HEADLINE SPARKS NEW AWARENESS
On Wednesday, the headline, ROASTED NUTS, topped a news report
about a fire at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital (no injuries) in New
Jersey. Tony Persichilli, who wrote the headline for The Trentonian,
is also a columnist and editor at the tabloid. Outraged advocates
protested and the next day Persichili issued a strong apology (link is
below). The headline style is called a "hammer head," Persichilli said.
"I should have hit myself with one."
This latest entry to the National Stigma Clearinghouse's archive of
loathsome language ends a relatively quiet period that we mistook for
progess. But in a way, the episode does show signs of progress.
More than one advocate spotted the headline, immediately passed the
word to other groups, mobilized, and voiced their united objections.
Immediately, Persichilli issued a public apology and took sole
responsibility for the "inaccurate" and "insensitive" lapse in
judgment. With every journalist who gains new understanding, advocates
gain an ally who can influence public attitudes.
2) RELEVANT (?) REPORTING IN "THE PLAIN DEALER"
In Cleveland's The Plain Dealer on July 1, a headline states,
"Westlake Man Attacks Officers With Knife, Police Report." The article
reports police intervention in a family argument. Readers learn near
the end of the article that the man wielding the knife was said to have
a history of mental illness. Following this are the neighbors' good
reports about the family and a mention that injuries to police officers
in the area are rare.
By using a non-sensationalist headline, the article's fairness is
several notches above the norm for such reports. But the report
stretches journalism's rules of relevance by noting the knife-wielder's
possible history of mental illness. This assumes or implies that mental
illnesses (no details) cause violence, reinforcing a damaging
Overall, however, the Plain Dealer points to a hopeful
direction in reporting.
3) TV RERUNS PRESERVE PREJUDICE
In New York City Voices (April/May 2002), "Hey Media, It's Our
Turn" by Kurt Douglas Sass commends "the long way media have come in
showing minorities, women, mentally retarded individuals and gay
persons in a much more honest and truthful light," and adds, "It's
about time they did the same for people with a mental illness."
Kurt Sass cites as an example a multi-episode plot in "The Practice,"
ABC's critically acclaimed drama. Sass says, "The minute they mentioned
that one character had schizophrenia, I turned to my wife and said, 'I
bet any amount of money in the world that he ends up to be a mass
murderer and deviant.' Sure enough, the character ended up murdering 10
people, including his own psychologist. He also liked to pull out the
fingernails of each victim and collect them." For the zillionth time,
the image of schizophrenia has been maligned and misrepresented.
Such effective image-making would be worth $$$millions in the
advertising world. The trouble is, the image is all wrong and causes
Kurt Sass saw the episodes first on ABC-TV, but now they appear on
other stations. Once a TV show is sold to syndicators, the original
owners shed responsibility for its content. Advocates must insist that
TV shows with egregious exploitation are withdrawn from circulation before
they enter the endless cycle of reruns.
Apologize, Headline Was Insensitive"
Man Attacks Officers With Knife, Police Report"
City Voices (article is not yet posted)
(If you have difficulty finding the articles, email email@example.com, include a
mailing address, and we will send them to you by postal mail.)
July 7, 2002 - News of the Week
OTTO WAHL RECEIVES HONOR,
THEN HELPS NATIONAL STIGMA CLEARINGHOUSE
For nearly three decades, Dr. Otto F. Wahl, a professor of psychology
at George Mason University, has worked to destigmatize mental
illnesses. A forerunner in the field, Dr. Wahl has become
internationally renowned for his books, lectures, and research.
On May 18, Wahl's years of research and advocacy were honored with an
award from Eli Lilly and Company.
Dr. Wahl in turn honored the National Stigma Clearinghouse by assigning
us a $5,000 gift which accompanied Eli Lilly's recognition of Wahl's
major contributions to destigmatization.
The National Stigma Clearinghouse has long been grateful to Dr. Wahl
for his help as an advisor. Now we thank him for giving us the
financial means to continue our work.
To learn more about Dr. Wahl's work, visit his website.
Thoughts on Medication:
It Cannot Solve the Care Crisis
The discovery of psychiatric medications gave new options to people
whose lives are disrupted by episodes of psychosis or other disabling
symptoms. People use medicine to avoid an unbearable alternative.
But many individuals have experienced over-medication, diagnostic
errors, and coercion, causing pain and distrust. People who willingly
take medication generally have found a type and dosage that suit their
needs, usually through working with an informed and trusted medical
Effective medication requires careful monitoring and adjustments, a
safe place to live, food, and a full range of options that promote
recovery. Medication helps many individuals, but it is not the
solution to the present crisis in psychiatric care.
For a decade, proponents of involuntary medication have said coercion
is necessary to protect public safety, thus gaining law enforcement and
legislative support. But coercion's damaging impact and its proponents'
one-note emphasis on dangerousness have polarized the mental health
community and spawned a backlash among moderate advocates. Thoughtful
discussion has been lost in the fray.
The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (with only one
psychiatric survivor representing a huge constituency) will now try to
muster the wisdom needed to recommend lasting solutions to the crisis
in psychiatric care.
Become well-informed. Become a registered voter. Become involved. Let
your voice be heard!
Sartorius, "Iatrogenic Stigma of Mental Illness: Begins With Behavior
and Attitudes of Medical Professionals, Especially Psychiatrists"(Emailed
from Alliance for Human Research Protection)
Van Tosh: "New Freedom Mental Health Commission Should Focus On
Olmstead"(Emailed from NYAPRS and MadNation)
of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health"(Emailed
from sources above and CMHS/SAMHSA)